Growing Spiritually

Growing spiritually as an elder

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As an elder, you are a spiritual leader of the congregation. Spiritual growth among the elders, both personally and as a group, will have a positive effect for the whole church. Don’t despair if you don’t feel quite up to being a spiritual leader for the church. If you feel like you have a lot to learn, be assured that this very same learning process of yours can be a blessing and an inspiration to those whom you are called to lead.

On this page, you will find many resources for deepening your own spiritual life, and the spiritual life of the elders and congregation. Click on the links below for ways to grow in your prayer life personally and at the elders’ meetings.

Resources for prayer life


Well-Fed Spirit

Benedictions -the prayers of blessing

Body Prayers -using your body as a tool for prayer

Candle and Incense Prayers -using candles for prayer

Collect Prayers -short, concise ancient prayer form

Column Prayers -Expanding your prayer vocabulary

Contemplation Prayers -Deepening contemplation

Covenant Prayers -Keeping prayer promises together

Fasting Prayers -Rediscovering an ancient discipline

Gathering Prayers -Prayers that foster community

Gratitude Prayers -Saying thank you in prayer

Imagery Prayers -Using images in prayer

Intercession Prayers -Praying for others

Journaling Prayers -Keeping a spiritual record

Labyrinth Prayers -An ancient prayer of walking

Laying on of Hands Prayers -A powerful prayer of blessing others

Mission Prayers -Prayers beyond ourselves

Moving Prayers -Prayers while we live our lives

Music Prayers -God speaking through song to us

Resting Prayers -Prayers of peace

Ritual Prayers -Prayers that become habits

Scripture Prayers -Hearing God prayerfully in the Word Spirit Day Prayers -When we need a time apart

Stations of the Cross Prayers -A way to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us

Walking Prayers -Taking our prayer into the world

Faith Sharing in Small Groups — Using Games for Faith Sharing

Books About Prayer

Use one of these books for a discipline of study, prayer and reflection for your Elders. You can read the whole book and then discuss it, or you may choose to read one chapter between each meeting and use the same book over several months.

A Kempis, Thomas, Of the Imitation of Christ, published in many versions. This 14th century writer’s words about prayer and faith ring true in our age as well.

Bloom, Anthony, Beginning to Pray, Paulist Press, 1970. A beginning book on prayer.

Brame, Grace Adolphsen, Receptive Prayer, CBP Press, 1981. Brame seeks to develop the praying listener’s tools in hearing God’s voice.

Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, published several times. A mystic from the 17th century introduces prayer in clear and loving way.

Brussat, Frederic and Mary Ann, Spiritual Literacy : Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, Scribner, 1996. Using the alphabet as a device, the authors share quotations and prose about spiritual depth. A is for awareness, b is for beauty, c is for Compassion?.. You get the idea. Beautifully written and a good prayer starter.

Edwards, David, Glimpses of God, Chalice Press, 1995. Short meditations around the liturgical seasons. Prayerfully written.

deWaal, Esther, The Celtic Way of Prayer, Doubleday, 1997. DeWaal invites the reader into an ancient spirituality with modern ways to encounter it.

Gatti, Mark and James Bell Jr., The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Prayer, AlphaBooks, 1999. This is a complete guide, all right! It takes a complex topic down to its basic elements. Good beginner primer for those who don’t have religious language from the start.

Gibson, Elsie, Honest Prayer, Westminister press, 1981. Discusses frequently asked questions about prayer using results of a survey and other data.

Groff, Kent Ira, Active Spirituality, Alban Institute, 1993. Gives 44 spiritual exercises for church leaders to engage in their own congregations.

Green, Thomas H., When the Well Runs Dry, 1979, Drinking From a Dry Well, 1991, Ave Maria Press. Each book helpful in renewal of prayer life.

Griffin, Emilie, Wilderness Time: A Guide for Spiritual Retreat, Harper San Francisco, 1997. Outlines how to take a personal prayer retreat step by step.

Guenther, Margaret, Holy Listening, Cowley Publication, 1992. This book teaches people the art of spiritual direction. Emphasis on how to offer counsel to others, yet good material for those seeking spiritual direction from others.

Janzen, Janet Lindeblad, Songs for Renewal: A Devotional Guide to the Riches of Our Best-Loved Songs a Hymns, Harper San Francisco, 1995. This volume blends the use of loved hymns with scripture readings, prayer disciplines and reflection. Would make a good choir devotional book.

Kelsey, Morton, The Other Side of Silence, Paulist Press, 1976. Classic on Christian meditation.Transcend, Crossroad, 1981, Compilation of 22 essays on prayer.

Kinnamon, Katherine and Michael, Every Day We Will Bless You, CBP Press, 1990.This volume offers a model for a four week prayer cycle and gives helps for seasonal and global intercessory prayers.

Leech, Kenneth, True Prayer, Morehouse Publishing, 1980. Using great spiritual authors from throughout Christianity, Leech weaves a contemporary understanding of prayer.

Merton, Thomas, The Seven Story Mountain, 1948. This is the biography of Merton’s conversion to faith. The Sign of Jonas, 1953 continues the story through his journals. The Silent Life, 1957, explores monastic life. New Seeds of Contemplation, meditative essays good for prayers of reflection, 1961. The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1968, chronicles his trip to Asia and is very helpful in understanding mystic life. He has many other books as well, all well worth the reading.

Newby, James, R. Gathering the Seekers, Alban Institute, 1995. Outlines a small group based spiritual formation process.

Norberg and Wilder, Stretch out your Hand , United Church Press, 1990. Explores healing prayer.

Norris, Kathleen, Dakota, 1993, The Cloister Walk, 1996, Amazing Grace, 1998. All these books offer the readers RICH prose and invitation to prayer through the lens of a spiritual pilgrim.

Nottingham, Theodore J., Written in our Hearts, Inner Life Publications, 1993. An eloquent invitation to the spiritual life written by a Disciples of Christ minister.

Nouwen, Henri, Walk with Jesus: Stations of the Cross, Orbis Books, 1990. This is a great introduction to the stations of the cross meditation.

Easily accessible. The Way of the Heart, Seaberry Press, 1981. Nouwen looks at three teachings from the desert mystics of the early centuries of church life and pulls out three lessons to be learned: solitude, silence and prayer. Particularly helpful for pastors and lay leaders.

Pedersen, Bjorn, Face to Face with God in Your Church: Establishing a Prayer Ministry, Augsburg Fortress, 1995. This book offers concrete steps for setting up a prayer ministry in a congregation with appendix that includes artwork and bibliography, while the body of the book offers dozens of suggestions for ways of congregational prayer life enhancement.

Pennington, M. Basil, Centering Prayer, Image Books, 1982. Examines prayers of quieting and listening to God. Introduces ways to listen to God and handle distractions when in prayer.

Sanford, John, Healing and Wholeness, Paulist Press, 1977. Seeks to understand healing prayer and invites readers into its practice.

Schmidt, Joseph, Praying our Experiences, St. Mary’s Press, 1980. Schmidt asks the reader to see how all of life can be prayers. Short, easy to read.

Vanderwald, Frances, Water in the Wilderness, Paulist Press, 1985, Outlines 16 ways of prayer in clear concise prose.

St. Mary’s Press, Companions on the Journey Series, 702 Terrace Heights, Winona, MN 55987. This series takes a variety of spiritual writers through time and uses their words, scriptures, journal ideas and poetry to invite the readers to prayer.

Upper Room Spiritual Classics. These small volumes, available from Upper Room Press are small handheld excerpts of the great spiritual writers, one book per writer. The first set of five was published in 1997 and included John Wesley, Thomas Kelly, Teresa of Avila, Augustine, and John Cassian. More in the works.

Walters, Kerry, A Retreat with Brother Lawrence and the Russian Pilgrim: Praying Ceaselessly, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2000. Using the story and prayer resources of Brother Lawrence, the reader is led through a retreat like experience.

Wiederkehr, Macrina, Seasons of Your Heart, Harper SanFrancisco, 1985. A Tree Full of Angels, 1988. Through scripture, poetry and journal entries, the author, by example, seeks to convey how we can see the holy in ordinary daily life.

Wilkinson, Bruce, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, Multnomah Publishers, 2000. And Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance, Multnomah Publishers, 2001. These two little books have enjoyed great popularity as prayer boosters. It could be interesting to read them as a group and discuss people’s ideas about these prayers.

Williamsen, Thomas, P., Attending Parishioners Spiritual Growth, Alban Institute, 1997. This book is a multifaceted review of how to deepen the prayer life of a congregation.

Books of Psalms translated for use in prayer

Many of the Psalms offer very helpful guidance for the life of prayer. These books have been prepared for that purpose:

Psalms for Praying by Nan Merrill, Continuum, 1996. All 150 Psalms offered in contemporary verse.

Psalms by Nancy Schreck, St. Mary’s Press, 1986. A modern language paraphrase of the psalms for prayer.

Chalice Hymnal, published by Chalice Press and available from Christian Board of Publication, makes another excellent resource. for prayer. See pages 726-768.

See also resources for retreat books